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Tourism - How Victoria Markets Itself


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#1 aastra

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 02:02 PM

I've got a lot of beefs about how Victoria is marketed as a tourist destination. Consider the publication, "Victoria - Visitor's Choice 2006". This is a high quality publication, about 200 pages, in a glossy booklet format that's about the size of a TV Guide. The cover picture is the little waterfall in Beacon Hill Park in the autumn, with lots of yellow and red leaves.

I have a bit of a problem with this picture. Why? Not because it's not a nice picture, but rather because it appears on the cover. Interestingly enough, in this entire 180-page publication there is NOT ONE establishing shot of the city core. NOT ONE! You can read this thing from cover to cover and still have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the city of Victoria actually looks like!! Folks, that cannot be an accident.

Any other city guide would put a picture of the city on the cover. Nanaimo's guide does it. In fact, Nanaimo's guide contains no less than six "city" shots (lucky for Nanaimo it has that "Beacon" highrise condo building...it appears in every shot). Nanaimo shows itself off, Vancouver shows itself off...what's Victoria afraid of?

The closest we come to getting a picture of downtown Victoria are small images of it in a couple of Hyack Air ads. In one pic, downtown is obscured by text.

On page 169 there's an aerial showing the Empress and most of James Bay. There's also a tiny pic in the Bear Mountain section that shows James Bay in the far distance.

Is the purpose here to mislead people into thinking Victoria is a tiny town? Or a city without a real downtown? If so, why??

I have another pamphlet-style publication called "Victoria & Vancouver Island Visitors' Guide". The cover picture is a small boat docked in the harbour, with the Wharf Street parking lot and the Harbour Square building in the background. You'd think Victoria was Sidney to look at this picture. No suggestion of the true size of the place, the heritage buildings, the bustle, nothing. Just as in the other publication, nowhere in this one are any images provided to show us what the city of Victoria actually looks like.

The point I'm making here is, the official promotion of Victoria seems to be at odds with the real Victoria. This is especially strange when you consider the countless travel reviews in which travellers gush about the views of the city from their hotel rooms (or how miffed they were to not get a city view).

Consider these blurbs from the first publication:

While other cities overwhelm with endless freeways and looming skyscrapers, Victoria and its region have held the line; the city centre is eminently walkable, other town centres are readily reachable...


Remind me which other cities anywhere near Victoria's size "overwhelm with endless freeways and looming skyscrapers"? Are we suggesting those city slickers from Regina or Boise or Halifax or Spokane will be able to wind down in quiet little Victoria? Is this why we don't get a skyline shot or a good city aerial, because it would betray the guff we're selling? And why are Victoria's neighbourhoods described as "other town centres"?

You can live the urban life very well in downtown Victoria, but you can also find something in short supply in many other urban centres; ocean views and green spaces.


Is this why images of downtown are an endangered species? Because downtown Victoria is (perhaps more than any other city its size in Canada) such a stark contradiction to the "green" image they're selling?

...as Sidney-by-the-Sea has grown enormously, it's never lost its friendly, safe feel.


There's that bizarre obsession with selling public safety to tourists. Even in Sidney!! (for the record, Sidney has not "grown enormously" in 100 years)

The waterfront walkway stretches some 11 kilometres from Esquimalt's West Bay to Victoria's Ross Bay...


This is perhaps the most grotesque misrepresentation of reality in the entire booklet. I suppose it's better than admitting that a huge chunk of the waterfront in the core is absent of walking paths and otherwise inaccessible to the public.

I'd like to see these travel guides start selling the real Victoria. It blows my mind that they've now dropped the olde England guff pretty much altogether...and replaced it with this "such a small city, you won't believe how small" guff.

#2 aastra

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 02:08 PM

For the record, the publication "Our Capital - 2006/07 Edition" has a nice picture of the city.

#3 aastra

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 02:15 PM

Here are some more gems from Tourism Victoria's Official 2006 Vacation Guide:

In Victoria, you'll find beautiful beaches practically downtown and peaceful parks tucked into busy shopping districts...


Victoria is internationally acclaimed as a safe, friendly city...


According to Statistics Canada, Victoria is the most walkable city in the country.


This guide also carefully avoids any aerials of downtown or the like. There's the Hyack Air ad again, and there's a picture on page 65 of the rear of the Empress, the museum, the legislature, and James Bay (probably taken from the Executive House Hotel). This latter pic is the only "city" shot in the entire publication.

Funny how Victorians are so dead against any new residential highrises in James Bay. If it wasn't for the 15 or so highrises that are already there, there wouldn't be any aerial shots of Victoria at all in these tourist publications!

#4 Holden West

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 02:22 PM

The "friendly, safe" Sidney image contrasts with the stories of disinfranchised youth (common in small towns with a lack of youth activities). Remember the high profile tragic curb stomping attack on an innocent youth about 8 years ago? Or the ones in Esquimalt? Has there been a similar incident in the downtown?

As for marketing, for some reason I'm reminded of [url=http://www.dresden.de/index.html?node=11260&PHPSESSID=a8e4325bc732ad2412c5ab103d107996:4a642]Dresden, Germany[/url:4a642]. Bombed nearly to [url=http://www.dw-world.de/image/0,,1486229_4,00.jpg:4a642]oblivion[/url:4a642] during WWII, it [url=http://www.reiseservice-decker.de/images/gallery/big/dresden2.jpg:4a642]rebuilt[/url:4a642] itself as it was pre-war and markets itself succesfully as a quaint old small city -- eg, the huge Communist-era architecture is not apparent in their publicity photos.

I suppose the big change happened when touristic promotion of Victoria went from mainly the responsibility of the Province to Tourism Victoria?
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#5 Number Six

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 03:13 PM

I've not seen the booklet myself but it does seem odd that they wouldn't feature more photos of the downtown core, especially 'framed' shots of heritage buildings or of the "small city" lifestyle.

I'll play devil's advocate for a moment ... :twisted:

Perhaps their target audience is south of the border and they figure those visitors are only spending a few days here ... so the small city image implies that everything is within reach and can be digested in a long weekend. And of course safety is a big issue with a lot of tourists, especially Americans and some Asians.

Enough devil's advocacy, I know their new tagline is "full of life" but I assumed this meant they were looking for a more outgoing visitor interested in exploring both the natural and urban environments. I guess not.

One of my personal interests is the history of tourism marketing in Victoria ... this is partly because I market travel for a living (although not Victoria!!). In the late 20's the Victoria and Island Publicty Bureau introduced exit surveys and found that what American's loved the most about Victoria was it's "old English charm" and so that message was hammered home for the next 20 years (arguably for the last 75 years). I've always believed that Victoria has a legitimate claim to this "charm" however it was greatly distorted and led to some less than authentic attractions. And so the distortion continues.

#6 zoomer

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 03:43 PM

Does anyone else think Lorne Whyte has been a disapointment as head of Tourism Victoria?!

Everytime I see him on the news I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the things he comes out with. To me he's yet another old skooler whose out of touch.

Check out the tourism Victoria website

http://www.tourismvictoria.com/

I read somewhere recently that while many cities around the world have their sites available in many languages to attract visitors from all over, ours is still in English only... wassup with that!!?

Check out the facts about Victoria from the media kit section!!

The Facts on Victoria
What is Victoria like?:

• clean, green and safe. Flowers are everywhere... even hanging from the lamp posts

• founded in 1843 by Hudson’s Bay Fur Trading Company. Signs of British influence remain throughout Olde Town

• a taste of life as it used to be with many historic buildings carefully protected and restored

• capital city of British Columbia and seat of Provincial Government

cosmopolitan city with “small town” atmosphere. Few buildings are over seven stories tall

• economic base expanded from fur trading to include coal mining, lumber, fishing and agriculture. Today, primary industries are government and tourism


worse yet are the pictures available for download, this page shows downtown:

http://www.tourismvi...tent/EN/903.asp

8 pictures of downtown. 5 of which are of the Parliament buildings, one of the Empress, one of the Tourist Info Centre and one of Market Square! :evil:

and what type of idiot would choose this picture of Market Square, where the road takes up half of the picture!! HELLO PEOPLE!!! Hire a decent photographer who knows how to actually frame photos, or at least crop afterwards!!!!



for some reason the picture is not showing, so go ahead and click on this link to see it:

http://www.tourismvi... ... Square.jpg

#7 Baro

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 03:46 PM

They are showing that there's lots of room to drive your SUV durring your day trip to see our 'small town' from where ever you are really visiting.
"beats greezy have baked donut-dough"

#8 Holden West

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 03:54 PM

I hate how they put an "e" at the end of Old Town. :roll:

Insane...apart from Market Square and Sam's Deli I don't see a single shot of a downtown building.

...Hire a decent photographer who knows how to actually frame photos, or at least crop afterwards!!!!


Tourism Vic, meet the [url=http://www.mediacollege.com/graphics/photoshop/tool/crop.html:6a504]Photoshop Crop Tool[/url:6a504]. Crop tool, meet Tourism Vic.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#9 zoomer

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 04:00 PM

Olde indeed... :lol:

Maybe the tourism Victoria website is going for that same vintage Olde style internet look!

The site is pathetic and embarassing...

#10 aastra

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 05:35 PM

Few buildings are over seven stories tall...


Good gravy! That's just stupid! Off the top of my head I'd say there are about 100 buildings that are seven stories tall or taller. Does 100 really constitute "few"??? And why on earth would you even mention something like that anyway?

So is Nanaimo sitting on a tourism goldmine, since it has but a handful of buildings taller than seven stories??

NOBODY IS COMING TO VICTORIA TO GET AWAY FROM TALL BUILDINGS.

Regarding the pictures in the Visitor's Choice guide, there's a shot of the Chinatown gate and another shot of Bastion Square (sort of, it's actually a shot of the entrance to the Maritime Museum). Other than those two shots, there's nothing. The small pics within the ads for the Strathcona Hotel are probably the only shots in there that give us any idea what downtown Victoria is actually like. Heck, they're the only shots in there to prove downtown Victoria even exists.

This is a 180-page guide.

#11 m0nkyman

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 06:02 PM

Visitori's Choice / International Guide is a private enterprise, not a tax funded thing.

Tourism Victoria's Official 2006 Vacation Guide is fair game though.

#12 aastra

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Posted 22 October 2006 - 06:07 PM

Yeah, but that makes it even worse because official/unofficial tourist industry dictums shouldn't affect their presentation. Why would the sponsors of the publication want them to misrepresent the city?

#13 mat

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 12:08 AM

I have worked in the tourism industry for over 20 years - as owner of Hostelseurope.com and hostels.net, also with Virgin. Frankly Victoria is making every mistake that destination markets in Europe went through in the late 90's - they have learned, changed, and are winning despite high currency valuations, airfare and security considerations. Victoria is 5-10 years behind.

One major point is the 'youth' and 'independent traveller' market. After 9/11 the backpacker market actually grew, and continues to do so. In the US only 30% have passports but that ratio rises to %60 for under 25's. Young travellers will visit a destination more than once, and are great at passing the word.

We have everything here to cater to an Independent crowd, rather than bused in tourists. The whale watching, nature, nightlife and friendliness beat anything in Europe - market it, and they will come.

#14 Holden West

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 12:18 AM

Great idea. Victoria needs more quality hostels to replace the quickly vanishing low-budget downtown accomodations. Independent travellers may not spend as much as traditional tourists, but they are more likely to spend their money on culture and entertainment than on the usual tourist trap stuff -- which in the end makes our city livelier.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#15 G-Man

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 07:41 AM

Completely agree that this is an untapped market. First thing to do would be to get Lonely Planet to write up a better review of the city that does not focus on the negative aspects of the tourism industry. This links to an idea in another thread that we link a bunch of off the track tourist destinations such as Fort Rodd Hill etc into an inclusive pass.

When I was in Barcelona they had a bus that went a bunch of the more far flung tourist sites and you could hope off and get on at your leisure. Perhaps something like that in combination with the pass would be something seen a of value to back packers. Of course you could not charge 100 bucks but say 25 bucks for entrance to the sites and a free ride there.

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#16 gumgum

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 08:05 AM

To really temp the youth out here, we really have to do a much better job marketing how great our outdoor activities are. We've got some of the best hiking, kayaking, camping in the world - and Victoria could be marketed as a home base for these activities. And why not take in some of the local culture while you're at it?
Take Iceland for example. What are the two things you know about it? Great wilderness and the cultural hub of Reykjavik. We know this not by mistake - but because Iceland works consistantly to promote what is their strengths, and assume that otherwise people around the world would knnw close to nothing about it otherwise.
We must assume the same. Canada in the eyes of the world, is off the beaten path and a relative mystery. We should utilize this perception by promoting our unique and colourful local culture and unique, striking wilderness.

#17 Oxford Sutherland

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 02:28 PM

You could do those things OR you could just put a big map in a room and charge people $20 to look at it. :wink:

#18 G-Man

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 02:38 PM

Great idea lets ask the government for a grant!

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#19 m0nkyman

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 02:49 PM

I bet they'd provide a nice building in a prime location. One that is of an era that suits this idea.....

#20 Number Six

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 04:00 PM

I totally agree ... eco-tourism and adventure travel are the fastest growing segments of the travel industry (albeit a small fraction of the overall market). The company I work for guides nearly 50,000 travellers on these types of adventures every year.

Vancouver Island's biggest problem is cost as young travellers are very cost-concious. Hostels are important but so is inexpensive food, transportation and activities. Victoria has a fantastic opportunity but we are up against some other fantastic destinations where the costs are a fraction of ours.

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